Archive for February 2010

Company Positioning Life-cycle (Past, Present, Future) to Retain Buyer Mindshare

Marketing strategy is built on – Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning. Additionally, Product Life-cycle (PLC) and Market life-cycle (MLC) concepts are key to the marketing strategy. These concepts are covered by many texts including my favorite, Marketing Management by Kotler.

As the enterprise goes through different products and sometimes different markets, the company positioning itself also reflects these cycles. It is as if there is a “Positioning Life-Cycle” in addition to the PLC and MLC. Positioning, as defined by Al Ries and Jack Trout (Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind) is the creative exercise done with an existing product to position the product in the mind of the prospect.

The most glaring recent example of a company positioning change is when Apple Computers dropped “Computers” from its name to become just Apple, Inc.  Interestingly, this name change came more than 6 years after Apple entered the music market with its iPod digital audio player (October 23, 2001).

Many companies small and big are constantly undergoing positioning changes and occasionally one can see multiple, but not incoherent positioning statements at the same time – reflecting the company’s past, present and the future. Visionary, innovative, leading companies are likely to share their vision through the “intended” positioning with the view that if you buy our solutions, we will be there with you for the long-haul. Obviously, prospects and buyers can make some educated guesses about such company’s product roadmaps and in that sense, the company’s product life-cycles will be driven by the company positioning life-cycle.

Here’s an example of a company positioning life-cycle for Genesys Telecommunications Labs and Apple as they progress from the past into the future. The goal of the positioning is to capitalize on buyer mindshare already won and to consistently retain the mindshare.

Company Positoning Life-cycle - Past, Present, Future - see references below

Company Positoning Life-cycle - Past, Present, Future - see references below


  1. – home page
  2. Genesys Telecommunications Labs – press release
  3. Genesys Telecommunications Labs – About Us
  4. Apple – iPad press release

Additional References:

Creating the Perception of a Product – Positioning, Trout & Ries on

Speech-enabled Automation for Better Customer Service at Lower Costs

Speech automation in the contact center not only helps by cutting costs by managing all interactions most efficiently; it also helps by providing 24×7 access to fast and efficient customer service. Speech can further reduce the need for inbound customer interaction by proactively contacting the customer with very relevant information in a timely manner – such as the notification of the customer’s prescription to be refilled or a notification of the customer’s credit card payment that is due today.

Speech automation also offers tremendous savings and Return on Investment (ROI) when compared to outsourced offshore agents. According to Datamonitor (as quoted in, a contact center in an offshore location, like India, saves Western businesses approximately 25% to 35% per transaction. However, a call serviced through speech automation costs approximately 15% to 25% of the cost of a call handled by an agent in India. Some companies like Lloyd TSB, the UK’s fifth largest bank have discovered that the widespread use and success of its automated speech-enabled phone self-service system has eliminated the need for additional offshore agent capacity.

Speech automation opportunities exist at every stage of the call flow. Automation can be applied with self-service modules after initial recognition of the caller, greeting, intent capture, Identification (ID) & Verification or could be limited to just front-end the calls, recognize the caller, capture intent and route the call to the best available agent. In a highly automated yet personalized scenario, the consumer interactions are completely automated – including inbound and outbound interactions.

Speech-enabled automated customer service and its benefits

Speech-enabled automated customer service and its benefits

Broadly speaking, speech automation impacts operations by reducing agent talk time, by increasing speed of issue resolution and by increasing availability of customer service to 24×7. Additionally, speech automation can also be used to reduce the number of incoming calls with highly relevant and timely, proactively delivered notifications. Up-selling and cross-selling with speech automation has also proven to be extremely effective – but only when it is applied judicially and non-repetitively. Using customer surveys for agents as well as the speech automation application itself can help measure customer satisfaction more frequently and systematically and this survey data can be utilized to further increase customer satisfaction.

In addition to the high incremental impact opportunity with speech automation, several factors such as the wide acceptance of open standards like Voice-XML, the increased number of pre-packaged solution choices and the availability of new deployment options like hosted and managed solutions reduce the time-to-value and make speech automation significantly more attractive compared to the other initiatives.

Customer service managers have many initiatives to choose from to deliver the best customer service at the least possible costs.  Among all these initiatives, speech automation stands out for its high incremental impact and its proven results. A study of speech implementations by Dan Miller of Speech Technology magazine shows that over 80% of speech implementations met or exceeded projections of ROI with an average payback period of about 11 months.

Phone, Cable, Computer – Major Change Drivers, but Who is Winning?

Used to be that we had just one telephone company, AT&T – it was the time when the phone was an appliance and the personal computer was just emerging. Effective January 1, 1984, the old AT&T was broken up by the U.S. Department of Justice, creating seven Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) and simultaneously permitted AT&T to enter into the computer systems business. Birinyi Associates, Inc. present a clear diagram of the AT&T breakup and the number of companies that were spawned by AT&T.

Roughly during the same time of the breakup of AT&T, three computer companies – IBM, Microsoft & Apple were making significant advances in personal computing. On August 12, 1981 the IBM PC was unveiled. Microsoft built the operating system for the PC. Apple started the personal computing category in year 1976, selling Apple I as a computer kit and advanced the computer to Apple II in 1977. The killer application, “Visicalc” ran on Apple II and provided significant impetus to this market. By 1980, Apple rolled out the Apple III model to the market.

It is indeed fascinating that AT&T was broken up and allowed to enter into the computer systems business and yet couldn’t quite make it into the computer business. AT&T’s main foray into this area came at the time of the emergence of the Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) market in the early 1990’s when AT&T introduced the “EO Personal Communicator” and competed with Apple’s Newton. Both Apple and AT&T lost in the PDA market as these devices were plagued by poor handwriting recognition, large size (therefore less mobility) and the lack of availability of an alternative (such as a keyboard) for data entry.

In the meantime, cable companies thrived as more and more content became available and further got an impetus as broadcast moved into digital and then HD.

So, while the charter for the new AT&T after breakup was to enter into the computing business, in reality it has stuck to its core business of communications services. Of course, AT&T has changed – it is more of a wireless service provider now than a landline service provider and it has grown its customer base significantly to each member of a household from being limited to one or two lines per household. With such changes and such market expansion, how has its stock performed compared to its computer company peers?

The following table shows stock performance for AT&T, Comcast, Apple, IBM and Microsoft over the last 26 years:

Stock return comparison of phone - cable - computer companies, excluding annual dividends which could be substantial in some cases. For example, AT&T currently has an annual dividend yield of approx. 6%

Stock return comparison of phone - cable - computer companies, excluding annual dividends which could be substantial in some cases. For example, AT&T currently has an annual dividend yield of approx. 6%

The clear historical winner is neither the phone company nor the computer company – it is the software maker, Microsoft. No one can predict the winners of the future, but one thing is for sure – the phone company does have tremendous staying power and is perfectly in the midst of major changes such as the commoditization of the long-distance communication services, the rise of the Internet and the most recent Mobile revolution and the convergence of TV and computing. Through all these revolutions, is it possible that the only winners in this change are the management executives at the phone companies and not its stockholders?


AT&T: Historical stock splits –

APPLE: Investor relations information (IPO date, price, etc.) –

IBM: History highlights –

All financial data from